With approximately a third
of the global population in some form of lockdown and of those, about 55%
living in big cities, what does this sudden shift mean for the future of cities and our homes? Will the U.N. prediction of two-thirds of the population living in cities by 2050 still hold?
Social distancing measures are now in place in many countries around the world, forcing consumers to spend more time in their homes than usual. Employees are required to work from home, vulnerable people are advised to shield themselves by remaining at home, and out-of-home leisure spaces have closed as people are urged to minimize contact with others. The home is the safe space to wait out the crisis. With consumers now forced to spend most of their time inside, the home is becoming increasingly crucial to personal identity, and as a space to work and play.
Cities – due to their higher population densities – are natural places for viruses to spread quickly. They are also the places where restrictions on movement are felt most keenly. However, while there might be a short-term increased interest in rural areas, we are seeing western countries learning
from Asia about how to handle the pandemic in high density areas.
The pandemic has highlighted the promise of 5G: its ability to shrink time and space, put e-commerce on steroids and allow for lightning-fast content downloads. Throughout the crisis, we anticipate the appeal of 5G will grow as it accelerates the power of connectivity
The big debate is how much power we give to technology to control our lives and movement
. Are we comfortable with the way tech dominates people’s lives in China while it helps keep them safe?
This is the largest and longest quarantine in history. As a result, the need to emerge from quarantine as quick as possible is being acutely felt, and thus all available technologies and the re-organization of supply chains are on the table:
1) Masks available for all, mandatory and supplied for free by the central government
2) Exit from quarantine staggered by age, but mandatory tracking of movements using bracelets or phone apps
3) Immunological test kits at home with an unalterable public register
4) Monitor all people and their movements on interactive maps, using cameras, drones and A.I. to verify spacing
5) Thermometers connected to Wi-Fi and to a requirement for mandatory daily temperature measurements
None of these technologies are science fiction and many are already being used in South Korea or Israel. Will the public in western democracies be okay with the measures listed above?
If anything good is to come out of this situation, it is that we have become more health and environmentally conscious. From an individual health perspective, there is now acute awareness of the fact that humans carry diseases; as a result, spending time in crowed trains and tubes is even less appealing. Also, having a strong immune system is the most effective way to protect ourselves. Consequently, there has been an explosion of wellbeing content as we confine ourselves.
Homes have become polymorph
spaces as we now use them for work, eat, play, exercise and other experiences we used to enjoy mainly outside of the home.
Suddenly, the home is under pressure to become the primary
– and for many, the only
– venue for life’s various activities: work, learning, downtime, shopping, fitness, dining, rest, childcare, socializing, creativity, romance, and cultural nourishment.
The re-imagination of home as a space where increasing numbers of people work, entertain and become more self-sufficient had already started, but this has been massively accelerated by forced confinement.
Brands that have flourished in this context include Zoom for video conferencing, and, in the Beauty sector, Blow
provides at-home beauty services. For health and wellness, P.E with Joe has developed a huge online following for children who need to stay active at home. Gourmet restaurants
are offering delivery, while existing delivery services such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo are seeing a decline
in orders as people increasingly cook from home or order from their favourite restaurant directly.
Entertainment, with media at the heart of experience innovation is growing. For example, immersive entertainment,
interactive storytelling are on the rise, and there’s been an explosion in gaming.
Homes for good
Homes increasingly are designed to mirror our thirst for sustainability, privacy and wellbeing. As we open our homes to colleagues and share our spaces 24/7 with others, the need for privacy and wellbeing at home has never been stronger.
As our homes get smarter, they create in equal measures new interfaces, new services and new privacy fears. And as we spend more time at home, all of these concerns are now at the forefront of people’s minds.
Lastly, as we are now all more confined, our homes are becoming new spaces for both personal and social connections. People across all demographics look to connect with other housebound friends and family members via livestream-powered shared experiences.
Many people are using the extra time inside to take up new creative hobbies, while others upskill and carry out home improvements. By 7 April, the hashtag #artquaratined had more than 3,000 posts on Instagram
as consumers turn to art, while #quarantinebaking had more than 41,000 posts as home baking surges in popularity. However, not everyone is using this time productively. Many are seeking escapism in the form of binge-watching T.V. and gaming – by 5 April, streaming hours on Twitch
had increased 9% compared with the previous week to an average of 49.9 million hours each day (source: SullyGnome/Twitch
Life as a subscription
Subscription models saw their start with primary goods, then expanded to include some beauty brands. Now with consumers spending more time at home, use of subscriptions will accelerate to other categories – particularly technology and home decorating.
Brands who can find new meaningful ways to connect with homebound consumers are more likely to grow. Social and commerce are today’s key avenues for innovation and home is the ultimate new frontier.
As we open our homes to colleagues and friends near and far, are we becoming more aware of home design? Can brands help with this? As we spend countless hours on video calls, do we become more aware of how we look? Would a makeup app for video calls be a good innovation? As we become more self-sufficient, growing tomatoes and brewing our own beer, should brands extend their offering to include such things as home brewing kits?
What we can all agree on is that this crisis has paused the tech backlash trend, as everyone from all demographics are counting the blessings of a well-connected world, where we can continue working, learning, exercising and socializing from the comfort of our homes.